Country specific communication
Personal relationships are considered important when doing business in Brazil. Brazilians aim for a long term business relationship and will not conduct business before they have met their business partners and have formed a relationship with them. Therefore, it is important to make a good first impression. They are usually ready to do business after two or three visits. As a communication method, people in Brazil prefer face-to-face meetings. They will begin with small talk to get to know one another and then get down to business later on. When a relationship has been established, a gift can be given to emphasize the new relationship. The gift should not be too expensive though, for this could be interpreted as bribery. There are no strict rules when it comes to manner of conversation. Everyone is allowed to express their opinion and communication is often informal. In Brazil gestures are used excessively during conversation and emotions are shown publicly.
Brazilians have small personal comfort zones and during conversations people stand close together. When men greet, they use a handshake or an embrace, while women greet with an air kiss. You should maintain eye contact when shaking hands as well as during conversation. When greeting a group, it is expected that you shake hands with everybody in the group, both at the beginning and end of the conversation. Brazilians have an indirect communication style. They do not want you or themselves to lose face, which is why they will not criticize their business partners directly. During trade, it is appreciated if you stay calm and reasonable and it is important to work in a respectful way by showing good manners and being well dressed. If you show interest in the people around you, loyalty and kindness will be given to you in return.
Brazilians have a relatively short attention span. They are merely focused on their own contribution to a conversation and often interrupt each other. They neither listen very efficiently to their interlocutor nor are they very interested in facts. They pay more attention to appearances in order to assess if the interlocutor could be a potential business partners.
Brazilians are interested in details and backgrounds. In large companies arguments are clarified with facts, but in small organizations it is also common to give arguments based on feelings. They have a temperamental argumentation style in which they put forward their statements passionately and often interrupt each other. They are not fond of making concessions and they only do so when they absolutely have to. Brazilians are keen on discussions and will not evade them.
Final decisions are made by the person with the highest authority, but lower ranked employees are involved in decision making as well and can influence the decision maker if they have work experience and prominent connections. However, they have to do this in private to prevent face-losing situations. Frequently, your business partner does not have the authority to make the final decision on his own, but the decision will be made behind closed doors. The decision making process can be lengthy, because many parties at different levels are involved. Therefore, it can take a while before a decision is made. Decisions are not made on the basis of rules and laws, but rather on personal feelings, intuitions and experiences. Brazilians are tough negotiators and do not hesitate to reject a business offer. You should include a considerable margin in your initial offer, so there is some room to make concessions. There may be a difference of 40% between the initial offer and the final agreement.
Management or hierarchy characteristics
There are many family-owned companies in Brazil with a top-down leadership style and a strict hierarchy. Nepotism is common and it is difficult for non-family members to obtain a leadership position. However nowadays, more large companies have changed to a business style in which promotion is based on educational level and performance. Most management positions are executed by men, but the number of women is increasing. Status in the business culture is determined by social class, money, education and family background. This applies not only to Brazilians but also to the foreign business partner. Therefore, you will make a better impression if you dress well, show intellectual interest and stay in a first class hotel.
If we look at the Hofstede cultural dimensions chart Brazil is almost equal to other Latin countries. The highest score for Brazil is the Uncertainty Avoidance at 76. This means that the country has a low level of tolerance toward uncertainty. To minimize this level, rules, laws, policies and regulations are implemented. The goal is to control everything in order to take away or avoid the unexpected. The result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance is that the people do not accept change and do not want to take risks.
Brazilian meetings tend to be a little chaotic and people interrupt each other constantly. Everybody in the meeting comes up with new ideas and tries to please the team by letting them know what they want to hear. They will often say that they have the solution to the problems when in reality this is not always the case. They will begin a first meeting on a new project very enthusiastically but they have problems staying motivated all the way to the end which can result in unfinished projects.
Contracts, legal concepts
Brazilians will spend a long time checking the details of a contract. When you do business with Brazilians they are not always the one who will have the authority to make the final decision. The decisions are made by the highest ranking person. It is important for foreign businessmen to bring local lawyers and accountants to a business deal instead of their own people. If you use non-local professionals it may be interpreted as mistrust and you could offend them. Besides, if a problem occurs, a local professional will usually find a way around it. Brazilians do not usually sign documents immediately after parties have reached an agreement but are prepared to sign later. A written agreement is not always binding and it may possibly change from the originally agreed version. In other countries signed contracts are binding and business begins when a contract is signed. In Brazil a contract can be revised and changed and deadlines can also change.
Authors: Wendy Besoo, Lucille Dijkman & Marrit Ormeling